Academic Writing in all Subjects

There are a number of professional organizations, programs, and communities (like WID, WAC, ATD, and the National Writing Project to name a few) that research writing across disciplines in order to learn how writing is done in a discipline and how writing can be used to improve student learning. From their research, and the work of other teachers of writing, we know that writing is a complex skill that requires layers of academic skills.

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To support content/subject area teachers, LiteracyTA offers a set of universal skills that all teachers can use to support students as they learn how to write about disciplinary texts. These skills include:

Today's English Teachers Do Not Teach Writing Across Subjects 

English teachers cannot adequately prepare students for the multitude of writing tasks that our students will face in school and at work. This cannot be the English teachers burden. In order to help students become competent writers, content area teachers must teach the values, conventions, and expectations of their disciplines.

Consider this: Scientists do not write five-paragraph style analysis essays. They do not accept opinion over fact. Scientists honor hypotheses, data, and experimentation. In science, information is delivered in very specific ways. Text structure is predictable and language is concise. The social sciences have another set of values and expectations. Although research is honored by both the science and social sciences, the types of research and how that research is discussed is quite different. For instance, social scientists analyze arguments (both written or spoken), evaluate events in history, and interpret visual sources like maps, photographs, and charts.

From contrasting these two disciplines, it becomes clear how different writing tasks can be for our young learners. Therefore, explicit writing instruction must happen in all subject areas to best prepare students for college and career readiness. 

Related Articles

Amy Conley, Ph. D. 2014, July, 14. "Nurturing Intrinsic Motivation and Growth Mindset in Writing." Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/

Ann Johns, Ph.D. 2013. "Literacy in the Disciplines." LiteracyTA.com

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